Marketing Recipe: Events
Don’t leave your ROI in the exhibit hall. Prep work & a few secret ingredients create unforgettable events that generate pipeline.
An evening centered around a phenomenal meal builds team camaraderie, strengthens your professional network—and closes deals. To create a similar mood that lingers, you must start event planning early and build strong campaign infrastructure for the conference.
Events are the centerpiece of demand generation marketing, a show-stopping day that draws prospects to your product. Much as in a multiple-course meal, the layers of an event are revealed in a slow, metered progression. This Marketing Recipe for Events is structured similarly, with a systematic approach that meets the precision required for cooking a most memorable meal.
Ready? Adjust your toque blanche as we prep and plan the evaluation and execution stages required to maximize the ROI of sponsorships. Let’s bake!
Menu Planning: Your Event Checklist
The secret to any event planning is to start early. Like, early. As in, waking up at 3:30 am to trudge down the snow-dusted path to the bakery, bleary-eyed and desperate for coffee. Before the world awakes, the baker is busy proofing the day’s sustenance far in advance. Marketing for the biggest events and conferences of the year is no different. So, sleepyhead, let’s get started! I can smell the cinnamon wafting your way already.
Evaluate Your Event Options
From sales territory dinners with the C-suite to concerts with mainstream artists, there’s just about every kind of event available ready to devour your investment.
So pause. ❌
Events succeed or fail based on your order and method. You need to apply a framework to determine which events get your limited demand generation dollars. With different organizations competing for space in your calendar, ask smart questions that require data-driven answers:
Attendees & Audience
Know exactly what kind of attendee the event is courting. From C-suite to students, you’ll encounter a variety of demographics.
Ask about the ticket cost, the amount of free tickets given out and what attendees expect their experience to be at each conference.
You must know how and when leads are delivered, if attendee and/or account lists are provided in advance or after, and the lead delivery expectation for each sponsorship level.
If there is no guaranteed lead minimum, estimate anticipated lead capture by calculating 5% of the total attendees for your booth’s badge scan.
Understand the venue, where exhibitors are located, how attendees move through the sessions and the expected traffic to your booth.
What—if any—marketing opportunities (not for an additional cost!) does the event offer to promote exhibitors to attendees?
Timing & Location
Even if an event sounds like a perfect fit, you must have the staffing in place and the sales team coverage available to fully execute.
Your Event Evaluation Checklist
The more of these the event checks, the more qualified the pipeline:
✔️ Your ICPs + target accounts are attending
✔️ 3 or more of your competitors are sponsoring
✔️ Your primary competitor is sponsoring at a high level
✔️ Partners will be there + ready to share resources
✔️ Opportunities to present customer case studies
✔️ Marketing has a clear vision and brand to execute
✔️ Senior leadership can attend and is supporting
Mise en Place: Prep Event Strategy
Once you’ve chosen your events for the quarter, half or year, it’s time to prep. There are a few more key pieces of strategy to determine before you can start executing. Let’s head to the market to gather all the ingredients you need to put together a fantastic event menu.
In a campaign, you choose primary and secondary CTAs. For an event, you’ll determine your event-specific CTAs, but the CTA itself may be less obvious.
Sure, “Get a Demo” is the ideal final CTA to everyone that stops by your booth—but you don’t actually want to give everyone a demo, do you? At shows with higher concentrations of free passes, there may not be as many decision-makers and booking demos would be wasteful.
Match your Event CTAs to the audience, lead capture method and marketing opportunities. For a fun, top of the funnel event to drive brand awareness, signing up for the newsletter to win a prize can crush your badge scan targets. Or, when it comes to highly coveted, intimate invite-only dinners with your target accounts, why would you aim for anything other than meetings booked?
Match event dates to the product marketing calendar. As your product team builds and releases new features throughout the year, align those release dates with major events (especially those with the best opportunities for press coverage).
Train your sales team on the new features, and encourage them to speak to event prospects and generate preliminary feedback. Capture insights around how the feature is discussed, along with any questions asked. Use this to help refine messaging ahead of a wider launch.
Since you did the groundwork and already know which of your competitors will be sponsoring, have product marketing prepare detailed competitor battle cards ahead of time and speak to your main differentiators during the show.
Customers, Partners & Analysts
For your primary ROI-generating conference of the year, consider a higher sponsorship level where you can present a customer case study. These options, while a higher cost, generate social proof in a way no other event add-on can. (Get the customer okay first, obviously!)
If you’re reducing budgets, teaming up with one of your partners is a top-tier way to attend more events for half the cost. Consider events that let exhibitors share booths. Then, you’ll want to develop a better-together messaging framework that lets each of your solutions shine.
Research and consulting firms host their own conferences, which include the opportunity to showcase your solution directly to industry analysts. Purchase additional tickets for your executive team to meet with more analysts to improve your product’s coverage.
A Full Course Meal: The Event
Ah, the first bite of delight travels from the back of the house to make a strong impression. The amuse-bouche is presented to elicit anticipation for the rest of the chef de cuisine’s creations.
Months before an event is held, create and distribute enticing content. These initial efforts are the first touchpoints designed to attract prospects to your event and prime them to agree to your primary event CTA later.
Two Months Prior
Build landing pages, social assets and graphics
Bring the branding into the booth design + swag orders
Plan social marketing campaign and schedule posts
Set advertisements in paid newsletter promotions
The savory dishes stand out with a bold taste, bringing a pungent perfume of umami to the evening. Bites of fermented fruit or canapés with offal clue in the diner that there is much more to enjoy.
As the event draws closer, start pushing the content and messaging already created. Engage your sales team and start focusing on target account lists.
One Month Prior
Invite customers and prospects with discount codes
Sales team starts prospecting to target accounts
Promote your latest thought leadership content
Schedule or hold a webinar tied to event messaging
Le Plat Principal
The hearty main course is a mouthwatering display of cultivated ingredients transformed by honed techniques — and it’s what your audience is waiting for.
Bring your prospects a meal they won’t forget on event day. Execute on the smart strategies set to communicate a competitive product with plenty of customers and forward momentum. Use the event to connect with prospects to keep your opportunities moving towards a sweet ending.
Keep your team on-task with focused standup meetings
Execute on the lead capture strategy and track progress
Push opportunities down-funnel with prospect meetings
Network with your VCs and customers at industry parties
Coat your prospect’s palate with confections. Remind them of the fabulous meal you shared and invite them to continue dining with your company.
Then, at the end of the night, when the team is weary, it’s time to close the event and start all over again. Work the leads generated, analyze each marketing channel + content strategy, determine your near-term event ROI and then iterate to improve on future events.
After the Event
Import captured leads and push them to sales
Recap the event with content (blogs, emails, webinar)
Evaluate quality of leads and pipeline generated
Track efficacy of event CTAs with granular reporting
Cocoa & Cookies
Like marketing campaigns, events require immense communication, cross-functional teams supporting the effort and a ton of alignment from leadership. In Marketing Cake Ingredient: Campaigns, use the Kitchen Crew section to help inform what you need from departments.
Generating impressive ROI from events won’t happen without careful selection, planning and execution. Just like cooking a 12 course meal, there are a ton of small things that will go wrong. Determine ahead of time what can go wrong—and what can’t—and adjust accordingly.
Finally, share a cozy family meal with your team and analyze the event. Did you set appropriate lead targets? Was sales successful in pushing them down the funnel? How was the engagement on social and registrations for a webinar? Answer these questions, dust off the crumbs and get ready to start the process all over again. (After all, that’s the fun of events! 🍪)